So it is not just an act of charity that we have here. We have to think of the analysis of caste. It is for everyone, for the society, and as a whole, because we can forget about being like china, being like America, as long as we have the disease in our soul.
When I am talking about changing our heroes I just want to renew something. In 1919 there was a hero in Kerala, there was a movement that was fighting for the dalits to be educated. The father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi was in South Africa and the legend of Mahatma Gandhi is that he fought casteism, he fought race in South Africa. When he came back from South Africa in 1913, he was already being called “Mahatma”.
Let me tell you that story of Mahatma Gandhi that we are taught in school and we tend to believe is a lie. And it is time to face up to it. It is time we unveiled some real truths here, because we cannot be basing our ideal facets of a nation on lie. While Mahatma Ayyankali was fighting for education of Dalit Children here, Gandhi was in South Africa. And I am going to read to you what he said about dalit people in South Africa. South Africa had two kinds of Indians, one was the business passenger Indians, and they engaged in business and the other indentured laborer most of who came from subordinate class and caste.
It is time we unveiled some real truths here, because we cannot be basing our ideal facets of a nation on lie.And here this is what the Gandhi said about the bonded laborers;“whether they are Hindus or Mohammadans, they are absolutely without any moral or religious instruction worth a name; they are not learned enough. Plus thus they are adapting to yield to the slightest temptation to tell a lie. After sometime lying with them became a habit and disease. They would be lying without any reason, without any proper, prospect of bettering themselves materially in deep whom knowing what they are doing. they reach a stage in life when the moral faculties has completely collapsed owing to neglect.”
Now this is going on. You know this is the same tone he used for black African people when he was in jail. He talks about Africans in the most horrible language. Here is a passage of Gandhi in jail with ‘Kafir’, Black people.
“We were all prepared for hardships, but not quite for this experience. We could understand not being classed with the Whites, but to be placed on the same level with the Natives seemed to be too much to put up with. I then felt that Indians had launched our passive resistance too soon. Here was further proof that the obnoxious law was meant to emasculate the Indians…
Apart from whether or not this implies degradation, I must say it is rather dangerous. Kaffirs as a rule are uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals and scavengers. This was enough to resolve in my mind the agitation to ensure the Indian Prisoners are not allowed with Kaffirs or others. We cannot ignore the faculty, no common ground, between them and us, and who ever want to sleep in the same room as them has ulterior motive to doing so.”
See I have actually followed Gandhi in South Africa, and starting out with my looking at the debates with Gandhi and Ambedkar and going back looking at his attitude about caste and further going back looking at his attitude on race
All his life he was a person whose doctrine of non-violence was based on an acceptance of most brutal social hierarchy ever known as the caste system. What does this mean? What does it say to us?
This is a person who believes that always the hereditary occupation of people who belonged to the caste system should be maintained. So, this is a person who believes that the scavengers should remain as scavengers all their lives. I will read to you an essay Mahatma Gandhi wrote called ‘My Ideal Bhangi’, My ideal scavenger.
My question is, do we need to name our universities after a person like Gandhi, or do we need to name it after someone like Ayyankali? At some point we have to stop being dishonest. At some point we really have to trace up to centuries of lies we have told our selves. There is nothing I am saying here. Everything I am saying is quoted from the writings of Gandhi himself. I am not making any judgments.
The question we have to ask ourselves is it right to go to naming universities, Bazars, statues and programmes after them? Or is it time for us to be little more honest?In 1936, perhaps one of the most famous revolutionary texts, the Annihilation of Caste was written by Dr Ambedkar, one of the most brilliant intellectual text full of rage against the system that still exists today . In 1936 Gandhi wrote an essay called “My Ideal Bhangi”, Bhangi you know is the north Indian scavenger. He said;
“He should know how the right kind of latrine is constructed and correct way of cleaning it. He should know how to overcome and destroy the order of excreta and the various disinfecting agents to be used. He should like to know the process of converting urine and night soil into manure. But that is not all. My ideal Bhangi know the quality of night soil and urine and he would keep close watch on this and give timely warning to the individual concerned”
Now, many years later, today’s prime minister Modi wrote a text too. It was called “Call me Bhangi” and here is what he said. (Here he is also talking about Bhangi community);
“I do not believe that they have been doing this job to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, he would not continue with this kind of job, generation after generation. At some point of time somebody must have realized that this is their duty to work for the happiness of entire society. They have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods and the job should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. ”
This is what the powerful people in this country believe. The question we have to ask ourselves is it right to go to naming universities, Bazars, statues and programmes after them? Or is it time for us to be little more honest?
I actually think it is hopeful thing I feel when people some time introduce me as the writer who is the voice of the voiceless. I don’t believe that anything like voiceless. There is only the deliberately silenced. Nobody is voiceless. I don’t have to represent anybody by myselves.
I just want to deliver a small essay of caste today. Today how the government is proud to proclaim as the govt. of “Hindu Rastra”? It is proud to say that they are a Hindu Nation? How did the Idea of hindutva first begin?
Early on in the 17th century and earlier the subordinate castes, Dalits converted into Christianity and to Islam in the millions. There was no problem, nobody minded it. But in the 20th century , when the idea of empire began to be replaced the idea of a nation state, when it was not enough to ride a horse into Delhi, to become the emperor of India, the politics of representation began.
Then it became about numbers. At that point the upper caste Hindus decided as the privileged castes. They decided that it would be terrible if the “40 million” dalits continue to convert. And that’s when the whole upper caste Hindu reformers movement started of which Gandhi was one. If you read ancient texts, people who were Hindus never referred to themselves as Hindu. They referred to themselves in the caste name.
Then the Hindu became not a “religious identity” but a political identity. They started to talk about Hindu nation, the Hindu race, and that’s how Hindutva started.
Today you have secular liberals, and debate between them and Hindutva. At that point the secular would say, “Oh you are exaggerating the facts that there was so much vandalism and that they broke temples”, and the hindutva would say that “No, it has happened and they broke our temples and they destroyed our culture.” But you have someone like Jyotibha Phule, one of the earliest model anti caste intellectuals who said “yes, they broke the temple, but thank god that they broke the temples. They invited us into their dining room and they were that whole breaking of the caste system which the people celebrated.”
We need to ask ourselves us what kind of people are we? Are we the people who place justice at the center of our society? Or are we the people who enjoy the idea of institutionalizing injustice?
Even our contemporary debates are so weak, when you don’t put justice at the court of justice. When Dr. Jnaneswaran introduced me, he said that “she is always with the marginalized”. I actually have a different view of myself. I actually think it is hopeful thing I feel when people some time introduce me as the writer who is the voice of the voiceless. I don’t believe that anything like voiceless. There is only the deliberately silenced. Nobody is voiceless. I don’t have to represent anybody by myselves.
We need to ask ourselves us what kind of people are we? Are we the people who place justice at the center of our society? Or are we the people who enjoy the idea of institutionalizing injustice? Are we the person who was so sick that we actually believe that there are some people who deserve more entitlement than others? Because, if we are that kind of people, we are very very sick people. And when you put justice at the core of how you think then the stories that you tell are different.
We celebrate the Dandi March where Gandhi mobilized millions of people. Though how much we criticised him, we cannot say that that he is not a great mobilizer. He mobilized millions of people against salt tax. We do not remember the Mahat Satyagraha where our own people prevented our own people from reaching water from a public tank. That is the real satyagraha. But that was even painted as a duragraha. But the mahat satyagraha fought for water, for the access to public water, and the salt satyagraha fought for salt tax. Today we have the corporation the TATA who control the trade of salt. So what is going on here?
In this nation of a billion people 800 million also live on less than 20 rupees for a day.Today people talk lot about how new economy has broken the caste system and there are new networks and so on. I just want to enter a very brief description of how caste in this new corporate capitalism is playing out. The idea of trying to bring the dalit into the “hindu fold.” Today we have hindutva government that has come to power which proves that it doesn’t need Muslim vote, it doesn’t need the dalit votes. Because it has the whole section of what is known by a word as silly as “OBC”, Other Backward caste which has swung towards hindutva. So what does it mean to the marginalized?
In this nation of a billion people 800 million also live on less than 20 rupees for a day.
We celebrate the Dandi March where Gandhi mobilized millions of people. Though how much we criticized him, we cannot say that that he is not a great mobilizer. He mobilized millions of people against salt tax. We do not remember the Mahat Satyagraha where our own people prevented our own people from reaching water from a public tank.
That is the real satyagraha. But that was even painted as a duragraha. But the mahat satyagraha fought for water, for the access to public water, and the salt satyagraha fought for salt tax. Today we have the corporation the TATA who control the trade of salt. So what is going on here?
We have the Gujarat model that is being put before us. In Gujarat 98 per cent of Gujarati villages practice Caste in various ways. Dalits are not allowed near common water, they are murdered. Caste is practiced and this is what media is saying the great model for development.
If you look at the fact that a hundred Indians have wealth equivalent to 25 percent of GDP.
Now you look at these corporations, Reliance, Adani, Mittal, the major corporations, all of them run by Banians. Ambani, Mittal, Birla, Jindal, Adani, all the top corporations, all the wealth are controlled by banias who own the corporations. At the bottom whether is the Maoists in the Dandhakaranya forests surrounded the Adivasis surrounded by Bania tailors or in the north-east 2.7 per cent of the population control the economy.
Who owns the news paper? Times of India, Indian Express, Zee TV.. Now Reliance own 27 news channels. The Medias controlled by owned by Bania are controlled by Brahmins. The corporations are owned by Banias. So capitalism and caste have merged to become the mother of all capitalism. And in the mean time, according to the National Crime Bureau, a crime is committed against Dalit by non Dalit in every 60 minutes. Every day 4 dalit women are raped by upper caste. Every week 13 dalits are murdered and 6 are kidnapped. In 2002 alone the year of the dalit gang rape which has been reported all over the world, 1574 dalit women were raped. And only 10 per cent of rapes are reported. You can look at the figures.
In the 20th century , when the idea of empire began to be replaced the idea of a nation state, when it [hindutva] was not enough to ride a horse into Delhi, to become the emperor of India, the politics of representation began. Then it became about numbers. At that point the upper caste Hindus decided as the privileged castes. They decided that it would be terrible if the “40 million” dalits continue to convert. And that’s when the whole upper caste Hindu reformers movement started of which Gandhi was one.
In 1919, in what came to be known as the Red Summer in the US 76 black American men and women was lynched. In India in 2012, 651 dalits were murdered and that is the rape and butchery, not only stripping and parading naked and the shit eating and the seething of life and social boycotts. As Ambedkar said, “to the untouchables Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors.”
Today we win a country where since 1947 we are supposed to be independent, there has not been a single day when the Indian Army has not been deployed against “our people”. From 1947 whether the Kashmir, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Telangana, Punjab, Goa, every day of the year, the Indian Army is fighting its own people. And who are the people? Think about it. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Adivasis, Dalits. So it’s an upper caste in its DNA, an Upper caste hindu state always to all with the subordinates with the religious minorities.
So how are we going to change this? It has to be done in a hundred different ways but it has to be done with the change of who we think our heroes are and our heroines are. Ayyankali, Surekha bot mange, Pandita Rama Bhai, Savitri Bhai Phule, Jyothi Bha Phule..
These are the people that our people need to hear about. Enough of these all better people who have been sold to us on sea of lies. I think we need to change the name of our university.